When I first started writing and recording music over ten years ago, I felt like I had to fit into a box. I auditioned for The Saturdays and other pop projects, but it never felt a hundred percent authentic and ‘me.’ All the online adverts looking for female singers were the same - ‘big production company seeks pop vocalist with model looks’ or ‘label looking for final member of pop group’. Naturally, I started writing songs to fit the brief of ‘girl band’ and wore exactly what I thought the industry wanted me to wear. Tight fitting dresses, hair extensions, fake tan. Not that any of these things are bad, it just wasn’t me.
It took me a long time and a lot of auditions to realise that my musical identity shouldn’t be decided by someone else. I guess I’m very lucky the managers and labels auditioning singers never chose me – believe me, I came close. There have always been strong female role models in my life who have broken the mould, and these were who inspired me and proved to me that I could be myself whilst making music I was proud of. I needed to be an independent artist and not pretend anymore. I experimented with my image and wrote songs not to impress anyone but songs that I actually connected to emotionally. The following artists have given myself and other females the courage to be themselves. For that, I thank them!
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Rich
Karen O has always been a boundary-breaking front woman and an inspiration. The video for Rich shows Orange Is The New Black’s Ruby Rose slowly dismantling her perfect femininity; cutting off her hair and pulling off her fake eye lashes and scrubbing on tattoos.
Paramore - Playing God
The ‘don’t care’ attitude of Paramore’s lyrics and the strong vocal performance of Hayley plus their hooky melodies mean Paramore can’t be ignored when it comes to feminist anthems. I listened to a lot of Paramore and I think you can clearly hear their influence in our latest album. I love to write lyrics with attitude and Hayley is a vocal inspiration!
Annie Lennox - Why
Annie Lennox has always been an outspoken feminist and I love her for it. Her strong androgynous image blew me away as a kid. She doesn’t fit into any box and she stands up for what she believes in.
Blondie - Rapture
The rap in this song has so much attitude! I like to add rap into Tokyo Taboo songs as it adds a toughness to the lyrics. I love to juxtapose in-your-face lyrics with a cute, squeaky high pitched voice. Debbie Harry really didn’t care what anyone thought of her and I was mesmerised by her growing up.
P!nk - Don’t Let Me Get Me
Really illustrates the feeling of not being good enough in an industry that wants you to be a Britney Spears rather than someone who stands out and has their own identity. ‘She’s so pretty that just ain’t me.’
No Doubt - Just A Girl
This song is what inspired Pussy Power - the idea of being lesser than a man: ‘just’ a girl. There is definitely a playfulness to the song which I wanted to carry over to Pussy Power, when Gwen sings ‘I’m just a girl all pretty and petite…’ There’s also a political message to it ‘Well, don’t let me have any rights…” Cute and coy but gets a strong message across.
Christina Aguilera - Can’t Hold Us Down
The first line of this song is so liberating, ‘So what, am I not supposed to have an opinion? Should I be quiet just because I’m a woman?’ I know a lot of men who really hate when women are strong or opinionated [and think] we are bossy and bitchy rather than their equal. There have been a few times when I have sat and smiled when I’ve been treated like a piece of meat just because it’s easier. But this song made me re-evaluate when to speak up and when to sit silently.
Janis Joplin - Women Is Losers
Madonna - Justify My Love
Madonna is for me the ultimate feminist, always expressing herself as a sexual woman without apologising for it. She didn’t care about shocking anyone nor did she let critics put her in a box.
Deap Vally - Gonna Make My Own Money
My Dad always told me to marry someone with money. I’m pretty sure if I had a penis I would be told I’d need to get a good job. It’s funny how women are told to aspire to marriage when they can actually achieve the same as any man. ‘You say marry a rich man… Daddy don’t you understand I’m gonna make my own money. Gonna buy my own land.’
Tokyo Taboo’s debut album, 6th Street Psychosis, is released on 24th March. Click here to listen to the album in full.